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Some hot advice for keeping cool in the cab

July 28, 2011
As many in the country have sweltered under extreme temperatures this summer, fans and air conditioners have been running full blast. The same is true for a/c devices in both cars and trucks. For drivers, especially professional drivers who spend so ...

As many in the country have sweltered under extreme temperatures this summer, fans and air conditioners have been running full blast. The same is true for a/c devices in both cars and trucks.

For drivers, especially professional drivers who spend so much of their time in their vehicles, air conditioning may not be a luxury. The last thing anyone wants is a driver hauling 80,000 lbs. down the highway, completely exhausted because he’s spent the past six hours sitting inside a 100-deg. cab. The results could be deadly.

But what do drivers do if their cab – and their temperament – are running a little hot? The quick fix comes in a can of R-134a. But in the eyes of at least one expert, the quick fix could do much more damage to your vehicle than it’s worth.

Frank Burrow, (left) manager of warranty and product support for Red Dot Corp., which makes HVAC systems and other components, says to avoid the quick fix in a can and find a qualified technician to repair the a/c system correctly.

“First, you don’t know if you need one pound of refrigerant or some other amount to replenish your a/c system,” says Burrow. “Second, if your system is losing refrigerant charge, you need to find out why.”

R-134a typically comes in a one-pound can in one of three varieties: with oil for the compressor; with oil and sealant; and straight R-134a, according to Red Dot.

Problems can arise quickly, Burrow points out. The oil mixed with the R-134a may not match the compressor’s original PAG or ester oil specs, he says. That could lead to additional trouble.

“If the compressor lunges, the manufacturer will analyze the oil for its type and viscosity,” Burrow says. “If it detects an oil that’s different from the original, the warranty may be voided.”

What about the R-134a with sealant? According to Red Dot, this is an even worse option. As the sealant circulates through the system, it will solidify when it encounters a leak. But, it can also collect inside valves and tubes, creating clogs, and also harm refrigerant recovery and recycling equipment, Burrows says.

“Many a/c technicians will refuse to work on a vehicle if their refrigerant identifiers detect 134a with sealant,” Burrows points out.

So the best advice if you’re having trouble keeping cool this summer remains what it’s always been: trust a professional technician and get the problem fixed right the first time.

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